Warning: this post contains gratuitous references to bell-ringing. Anyone with allergies to bells should stop reading now.
York is one of my favourite cities in the UK, and I was delighted to be able to spend the day there last Saturday.
Now of course there’s more than enough to keep you happy and occupied in York for days on end, but we were there for a bell-ringing event, so inevitably the day was dominated by visiting churches.
York Minster is one of the granddaddies of gothic architecture and an absolute ‘must-see’ at least once in a life-time, but we started our visit to York with a very special tour of the two towers of York Minster that house the incredible Minster bells. For bell-ringers, the best bit was the fact that a peal was being rung during our visit, so we could see, hear (and feel) the sound of the bells in action.
The NW tower houses Great Peter, a huge bell, one of the biggest in the UK (10 tons), which sounds the hours, and the quarter bells.
looking up into the NE tower of York Minster
Great Peter, almost the heaviest bell in the UK…
If you want some idea of how Great Peter sounds try this YouTube clip here (but imagine it so loud your teeth rattle).
The SW tower holds the ringing bells. As they were being rung, I didn’t take pictures, (I was too scared I’d drop the camera into a swinging bell). We went up onto the roof of the SW tower to get one of the most amazing views of the city. The weather was so good we could see for miles. (Actually the sky was that amazing deep blue, but I’ve had to adjust the pictures to show the details). I just adore the gargoyles on the pinnacles.
Click on the pictures for a better view.
After enjoying our very noisy tour, we strolled along to St Olave’s Church in Marygate.
This was a wonderfully gentle antidote to the size and magnificence of the MInster. Of all the churches we visited on Saturday, this was my favourite. You know that feeling in some churches of serenity, calm, peacefulness – well that’s St Olave’s.
The font cover soars into the air – click the picture to see it better.
By contrast, St Wilfrid’s church, built close to the Minster is all about sturdy Victorian values. As an example of its type, it is pretty amazing, but my own response was to feel over-powered.
Some of the family went in search of other bells, but I went in search of refreshment (lager shandy – not my normal lunchtime habit, but it was soooo hot!).
Later we headed off to St Lawrence’s Church, just outside the city walls. The girls were competing in a striking competition there, so mother mode took over and I didn’t take photos – in fact I sought shade and a place to sit where I wouldn’t be in the way. St Lawrence’s is another Victorian church, built on the ground of an earlier church. All that now remains of the original church is the tower – a slightly forlorn relict. But the most poignant element for me was this derelict tomb – so sad and with a rambling white rose growing wild across it.
After the excitement of the competition, we took a very slow walk back to St Helen Stonegate, which was acting as the hub for all the ringing events. They had a little mini-ring set up and the girls enjoyed having a go – it’s quite different to the normal ringing we do. The lovely people at St Helen’s laid on lashings of tea and cake – they understand their audience very well indeed!
The remains of the medieval St Lawrence.
Spot the mini-ring at St Helen Stonegate.
I’m afraid I gave up taking ‘proper pictures after that. We went on to St Michael Le Belfry (the church where Guy Fawkes was christened), where the competition results were given. Suffice to say it was extremely exciting and quite out of the blue, our team won. I’m not going to embarrass any of them with ‘proud mother type’ pictures – but it was fantastic and I am incredibly proud of all the young ringers who took part.
During the afternoon, I’d re-visited some old-haunts in the city. I was disappointed to find that Taylors of Stonegate had been renamed Betty’s – I know it’s all the same firm, but Taylors had a certain something special. I nodded at the Judges Lodgings – which used to be my favourite place to stay in York, I’ve spent some happy times there. And of course, no visit would be complete without saying hello to this little chap…
Apologies for a rather indulgent post – it was a beautiful day I will always remember.
Now, get out into the garden and soak up some rays!